Matisyahu at The Commodore

Photos by Christine McAvoy

Some of my favourite Commodore shows have been of bands carrying a positive message or undercurrent of faith. The crowds being super respectful and the acts extremely generous in giving all they can give. Matisyahu’s show was no exception and definitely will remain as one of the more memorable.

I arrived at the venue early enough to have a drink and secure myself a good view of the stage, as this was one show I did not want to be stuck in the middle for. Feeling the music in all of its Torah loving glory was of the essence, and for some reason I just wanted to see the man up close and personal. His interactions with the band, the crowd and how he grooved on his music seemed important. I mean, this is a reformed deadhead gone Hasidic Jew who sings/beat boxes about his soul being lifted to heaven, walking the righteous path and other warm positive things. I wanted to see the peace in the eyes and grace in the step of a man who’s found God, yet can still blow the roof off a venue with his jaw dropping mic skills, and as it turned out, fantastic backing band.

MatisyahuSpeaking of backing band, it was Dub Trio who opened the show at 9 sharp. Three dudes walked out, strapped in and then proceeded to lay waste. The music was a brutal, gut churning metal hybrid played with stop on a dime precision, easily switching gears from heavy to ambient to dub reggae and then back to heavy again. No wonder they so impressed the former Matthew Miller that he’d chosen them as his touring and backing band. An interesting thing with Dub Trio is that each of the three members can loop anything the other member plays through separate banks of effects peddles with mics strategically set up near the drums. This wasn’t used to it’s fullest until Matisyahu hit the stage, but it made for some very interesting and tripped out music. It was a short set clocking in at about 30 minutes, which can be forgiven being that the band would soon be back with the man of the hour.

We didn’t have to wait long. Set lists taped to floor and towels distributed, the anticipation grew. Before long Dub Trio were back in place with a couple of added members. Then with a rousing roar of the crowd, the tall bearded man from Brooklyn wandered out from stage left, decked in a full brown pant suit, looking like a cool M.F from the holy land just hanging out and being awesome.

The band tuned in as Matis sang what could have been a Hebrew prayer, though it was hard to tell as the vocals definitely needed to be raised, but this minor technical flaw was soon ironed out and we were a go. Now, I can’t admit to being a hardcore follower of the man’s music. I know enough to get by comfortably, but I wasn’t among the hundreds in attendance singing every word and losing my marbles. That being said, I couldn’t help but get caught in the moment on a few occasions as Matisyahu smoothly stalked the stage spitting rapid-fire rhymes and soaring vocals while the band knit so skin tightly around him. Tears came to my eyes as he stood perched at the edge of the stage clearly feeling the power of the crack band playing behind him. Chills came to my spine as he looked down upon his adoring fans, a little smile on his lips and a look of thanks and praise in his eyes. Awe filled me as he ripped out a near six minute beat box solo that would send most street thug rappers back to the sandbox.

But it was his stage presence that really got me. Though not as energetic as I’d imagined, he undeniably had the crowd in the palm of his hand and the beauty of it was that he just kept giving us back to ourselves. With three encores, including the much hoped for “King Without A Crown,” this 2 ½ hour dub reggae party was truly an enlightening and freeing live experience.